Sanctuary–William Faulkner

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So I’ve been reading William Faulkner’s Sanctuary over the past few days. This was Faulkner’s breakthrough novel, the one that made him famous when it was published in 1931. He claimed that it was pot-boiler pulp fiction, written purely to make money, but who knows. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who chose to start spelling his name with a ‘u’ for some obscure reason–an author who worked from day one at creating the myth of himself as author. So who knows–maybe he actually thought he was writing a great piece of literature when he produced this lurid drivel.

Sanctuary is most famous for the rape of Southern debutante Temple Drake. She is raped with a corn cob. There you go. That’s pretty much all you need to know about this book. However, if you’re into elliptical and confusing depictions of violence, drunken debauchery, creepy voyeurism, and post-lynching sodomy, Sanctuary just might be the book for you.

There are two film adaptations of Sanctuary–1933’s The Story of Temple Drake, and 1961’s Sanctuary. Neither are readily available on VHS or DVD, and for good reason. They’re both pretty terrible. Still, the early sixties take on Sanctuary manages to capture the backwoods grotesque that saturates the novel. Actually, David Lynch could make a pretty decent film out of this.

My final analysis: I’m very very happy that I only have one more novel of Faulkner’s to read–Intruder in the Dust. Sanctuary did nothing but help consolidate my prejudice against Faulkner and my belief that the notion of Faulkner as an American Great is nothing but a scam.

3 thoughts on “Sanctuary–William Faulkner”

  1. wow.
    i’m going to have to disagree here. far be it from me to claim being educated in the literary arts, but as for what i’ve read of Faulkner, i’ve been genuinely blown away. elliptical and confusing are both apt descriptions, however whether or not that is a good or bad thing i think depends on the perception of the reader. now, i’ve not read Sanctuary, only The Sound and The Fury and Absalom, Absalom, but for me those novels showed an extraordinary development of style and i want to say “experimentation” though the cyclical nature of the writing in the end makes it seem more calculated. I feel like these novels showed superior character depth, style light years beyond it’s time and just a genuine raw power in it’s descriptiveness and lyrical flow. i can easily understand why some would absolutely detest Faulkner, but i think it may be a bit overboard to call his greatness as an American author a “scam”…i guess it really depends on your definition of greatness. some would think one masterpiece novel constitutes greatness, while others would contend it should require a bibliography of strong work. i’ll state that in my opinion, The Sound and The Fury is a work of absolute genius and for that alone, he’s an American great in my book.

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    1. i totally agree with you micbk… In my opinion Faulkner is a real great writer, one of the best of the bests (excuse my english) in the whole world literature. I’ve read almost everythig he’s written and “the sound and the fury” is my favorite, together with “absalom, absalom” (they form a diptych, if you’ve noticed). The “sanctuary” and the “requiem for a nun” also form a diptych – (but i am dissapointed to realize that, for the time being, i’m alone in this thought…)
      on the other hand, i can somehow understand “biblioklept” as well, considering the fact that he is for the time being “forced” to read Faulkner – i can’t help remembering myself in university when i was also “forced” to read “the sound and the fury” and i was totally angry and frustrated – in the beginning – till i decided to find my way to him, only after i had graduated
      Faulkner is a difficult, demanding and deep moment in literature – you’ve put it very well in your comment – “light years beyond it’s time” –
      perhaps i can help our host here only in one point : Faulkner didn’t “chose to start spelling his name with a ‘u’ for some obscure reason” : it was a typo mistake in his first book and he decided he liked it –

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  2. You make some valid points. I’m in the middle of a Faulkner class right now, so my hostility is somewhat unbridled. I attempted both of the novels you mentioned, but couldn’t finish them…I was about 19 or 20 at the time. I’m going to attempt some Faulkner wrap-up in this blog later, taking your argument into consideration. I think you bring up an interesting question on the size of a writer’s catalog vis-a-vis their canonical position. I think I’ll try to address this in a post as well: there’s a lot to it.

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